Man in Black Review: Men in Black III (2012)

Torchwood is an organization founded to protect mankind in the event of alien incursion and to make use of their technology for the sake of the human race.  When time traveler Jack became its leader, the organization began a policy of erasing the memories of those who came into contact with them, and separated Torchwood from under the control of the Great British government so that alien technology could not fall into the hands of a single Earth nation.

Wait, wrong organization.  Wrong side of the Atlantic.  And wrong ladies’ man.

The Men in Black are an organization founded to protect mankind in the event of alien incursion.  When Agent X founded them, the Men in Black obtained technology that allowed them to enforce a policy of erasing the memories of those who came into contact with them, and separated themselves from under the control of the United States government so that alien technology could not fall into the hands of a single Earth nation.  There’s time travel involved somewhere here, too.

Let me pause you, now that we’re on the right track.  If you haven’t watched 1997’s excellent Men in Black, there’s no review.  There’s no conversation to be had.  This is a sequel and while it might be possible to enjoy it without having seen the first film, why the fuck would you want to?

Part 2, on the other hand, is optional.  Men in Black III does its best to pretend MIIB never existed.  Except that it’s pretty much the huge elephant in the room.  Along with the second film, the last ten minutes or so of the first film had to go out the window, to the point that J and K act as though they’ve been partners ever since J was recruited to the MIB.  Jeebs is nowhere to be seen, neither is frank, or most of the “Fresh Prince” brand of comedy that they went so overboard with in the second film.

However, with a second film with a Victoria’s Secret model for a villain and no particular fan service in the original, something was bound to carry over.  The first scene of this movie is a woman in fetish gear delivering cake to a bound man.  He’s bound because this is a prison, she’s covered in zippers because… look.

The man is Boris the Overacting- I mean, Boris the Animal.  He’s the villain in this film, and he likes to roar.  It’s like, his favorite thing to do.  He’d rather roar than keep his girlfriend around after the prologue.  Not my place to judge, I guess.

Boris the Animal is the last member of a species that K wiped out forty years ago, during the same battle in which he arrested Boris, stopped sleeping with the woman that would become his boss when Zed’s actor didn’t come back for the third movie.  And when K stopped smiling and feeling things.  And a spoiler.

Once Boris escapes from prison and kills to fail K during the “introduce the main characters as badasses” scene, Boris finds a man who has a device that you can use to travel back in time.  I guess that makes him the Jeebs of this episode.  His head doesn’t grow back, though.  I think.

Boris goes back in time, kills K by incredibly lazy methods, and invites his people to conquer Earth, which takes forty years to happen because it’s convenient for the plot.  Will Smith is having none of this, and follows Boris back in time.

It’s unnecessarily slapsticky, but that’s because Boris isn’t all that smart.  Boris is one of those villains that is smart enough to break himself out of prison and go back in time, but dumb enough not to have any kind of plan that’s actually worthy of the word when he gets there.

Agent J, on the other hand, is pissed off with the fresh rage of hearing that someone went back in time to kill your friend, and comes up with a plan to kill Boris before K even meets him.  Obviously, the plot can’t let that happen, but the conflict of overplanning versus underplanning leaves J with a whole lot of time in which things were already going according to plan before J got there.  He could have helped, but the files on this event were classified because K was being K, so J has no idea what happened in the first place.

And such is the lens through which Agent J views the 1970s.  Oh damn, the 70s were 40 years ago?  Do I even need to say how depressing that is?  That goes right along with the realization that it’s been nine years since Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith last wore the black suits on the big screen together.

Josh Brolin does an excellent Tommy Lee Jones.  I was a little iffy on this going into it, especially after realizing that a blind, deaf man overdosing on PCP wouldn’t mistake Chris Pine for William Shatner, but Agent K got a good match.  Brolin is only about twenty years younger than K, but the makeup department definitely earned their pay on this feature and it wouldn’t be hard to picture Josh Brolin aging forty years and becoming Tommy Lee- that is, as long as you keep Joel Shumacher out of the process.

Smith and Jones deliver the performance we’ve come to expect from them both.  It seems like Smith’s writing was tempered down, as if out of concern to invoke memories of the second film if Men in Black III was as “black” as the first film.

Other than the slightly relaxed comedy, Men in Black III is very much keeping to the tone of the first film.  While MIIB skewed way too far in the direction of a Will Smith urban comedy, MIB3 isn’t nearly as extreme in veering away from it.  The walk through MIB HQ was just as cool, although someone tried a little hard with the stinger playing every time they went on an elevator, or walked into HQ, or appeared on screen, or pretty much did anything.

Spoilers may follow.

What this changes, in its entirety, is that instead of sitting grimly in the diner, Agent K is bobbing hsi head and tapping his fingers to “Empire State of Mind”.  Wooooow.  Completely write-off-able character change.  Way to push the limits there, guys.

I’ve talked about enough negatives that you might start to think I don’t like this movie.  This following scene, which I’ll try not to spoil much, is the key to what I think this movie did right.  I was spoiled prior to watching this movie that a certain character was set to appear.  Because they appeared toward the end of the film, I knew who it was immediately.  A subplot was set up with this character, just enough that you knew there would be something tragic.  And then, the character resolved their purpose.

This sounds pretty vague, but if you haven’t seen the film, I don’t want to spoil this scene for you.  If you have seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about, and the aftermath.  And I, for one, found this scene extremely touching.  I’m not one to get emotional at films (other than angry), but this scene got an emotional response out of me.  If that’s not a hallmark of a film that deserves a chance, I don’t know what is.

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